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Feature Articles

AMD on the Rebound: A Chat With Henri Richard

By Zachary Chan - 2 Apr 2007



Two years ago, we interviewed Henri Richard, the Executive Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of AMD at the peak of AMD's success in the microprocessor market. Our article then was titled - 'Championing 64-bit & Dual-Core' - and at the time AMD was the undisputed leader in both technologies.

Today, Intel has fought back with a vengeance and the microprocessor wars have again heated up to a boiling point. In a short span of time, there have been many surprising turns of events and industry-wide movements that has propelled AMD into the spotlight such as their bold move to buyout veteran graphics giant ATI. However, AMD itself has been keeping a low profile as of recent times in the desktop microprocessor space. The world is just waiting to see if they can bring up their game with their upcoming next generation processors, chipsets and GPUs or will they fade into obscurity as with others who have dared the wrath of the '800-pound gorilla'.

www.hardwarezone.com® met up with Mr. Richard again for an exclusive interview and this time, we discussed his views on the microprocessor market, open standards, AMD's challenges and plans for the future, plus the promotion of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

HWZ: Now that the AMD/ATI merger is behind you, what can we expect from the new AMD? Basically, a roadmap update if you will.

Henri Richard: Well, it's true that the merger has been completed and the engineers have started to get together to work on the future. We have, and I believe, very exciting products coming along and you've already heard some of then, like Fusion. Clearly with Vista coming into the market, there has been a paradigm shift in terms of how users are going to be dealing with their systems. If you look at the legacy of PCs, they were really engineering machines, designed by engineers for engineering work. Back there and then, when the first PC was created, nobody would think that millions of people would carry around a notebook, watch movies, create videos or listen to music. So if you really think about it, in a very short period of time, the purpose of the PC has changed dramatically.

And where initially what was important was computing power, today increasingly, what is important is how you relate to it - visually, through audio and of course through computing. There is a battle between the various elements of the computer that has changed very significantly since its birth. One of the reasons that we did the merger with ATI is recognizing that in the future, the necessity of a balanced platform with high performance processors, high performance graphics, great audio capability and great video capability would be as important as just having a good processor. ATI brought to the party not only leading edge graphics capabilities, but also leading edge video capabilities.

So the first level of integration that you can see from a road map perspective is just bringing some of those new technologies into the market in the form of chipsets, or what we'd like to call our motherboard GPUs, and the 690 that has just been launched is the perfect expression of that with AVIVO video technology embedded. As we continue to roll out new generations of chipsets, the next generation which should be out towards the end of this year, which is the 780, will have much more integration with the linking of our design engineers both on the CPU side, GPU side and Video side.

Long term, we talk about our view where the world has moved to a heterogeneous course where several computing units will be tapped to do different things (by the way this architecture isn't completely new since this is how game consoles are working today). We think that in the future, we'll see interesting things on the same die, an x86 instruction unit as well as a GPU. There are a lot of interesting things you can do in terms of power savings, when we have both cores close to each other. And of course also, within the same power envelop, you can do system partitioning of computing performance based on the usage model of the computer it is sitting in.

So, I think that's another dimension of the industry that is changing. It used to be one size fits all and I think that increasingly, because of the usage model moves away from one size fits all, the scalability of processors is not going to be in frequency or number of cores, but how well it is adapted to do a particular workload.